At last, an artist from my side of the big pond. Florence Broadhurst was certainly a colourful character, and quite the adventuress too. Very daring for her time, you might say. For a woman to travel as much as Florence did, to be able to reinvent herself time and time again in different continents across the globe, to become a design icon in her 60s, is quite an achievement, yes. Maybe I’ll call her the Mata Hari of the design world.
Here is Florence’s official website, which will tell you more about the life, or rather, lives, she led. http://www.florencebroadhurst.com.au Here are some excerpts from it, so you can see just how adventurous this lady was:
“Years ahead of her time, the complex, eccentric and talented Florence Broadhurst was born in rural Queensland, Australia in 1899.
By the time of her death in 1977 Broadhurst had lived and worked in Australia, Asia, and England; performed professionally on stage; been befriended by royalty; exhibited her paintings; and started an internationally successful wallpaper company whose success was based upon her own designs.
A multi-talented legend, Broadhurst expressed herself creatively through multiple mediums, platforms and continents around the world. After winning a singing competition in 1915, Broadhurst started performing in various towns and cities in Queensland.
By the early 1920s, she was performing in India, South-East Asia and China. In 1926, Broadhurst founded a modern academy of arts in Shanghai, known as the Broadhurst Academy, offering tuition in violin, pianoforte, voice production, modern ballroom dancing, classical dancing, musical culture and journalism. Never one to settle, Broadhurst moved to London and reinvented herself as Madame Pellier, running a dress salon on Bond Street in 1933.
After spending more than a decade in the United Kingdom, Broadhurst returned to Australia and settled in Sydney where she started painting enthusiastically and prolifically. Transforming her creative talent into a business opportunity, she started a revolutionary wallpaper business in 1959, creating hundreds of unique and luxurious patterns with rich and vibrant colours all perfectly matching her flamboyant personality.
By the mid 1960s, her company monopolised the Australian market and started exporting to America, Peru, Paris, the Middle East and Norway. She continued to work actively until her death in 1977 at the age of 78.”
“Risk-taker par excellence, style maven extraordinaire, her most exhilarating legacy is a design archive making waves around the world today. But this is where her legend begins.
Born in 1899 in a remote rural corner of Australia’s Queensland, Florence’s death was a violent murder at the age of 78. In between, she lived a series of vivid, fantastic lives.
Charismatically fearless from word go, she spent the roaring Twenties singing across the Far East’s colonial reaches and ran a finishing school in Shanghai. In London, she became “Madame Pellier”, a French couturier proud to dress the rich and famous. She moved back to Australia as an aristocratic English lady; an entrepreneur, society figurehead and landscape painter.
With every incarnation Florence became somebody new – new hair colour, new accent, new history. Even, on occasion, new name. At the age of 60 she did it again, launching in Sydney her defining venture – an internationally-successful, luxury, hand-print wallpaper business.
She announced she would colour Australia. In so doing she re-drew the world. Everywhere she had been and everything she had seen found voice in a whirlwind of creativity. Florence’s archive grew to over 500 images ranging from tapestries to geometrics, florals, psychedelic, and delightfully eccentric chinoiserie.
Yet however dynamic and diverse her designs became, her personality was more compelling still.
Upon her death, Florence disappeared. Today, thanks to the passion of Sydney’s Signature Prints and Signature Design Archive, she is stepping back on to the international stage with designs that transcend fashion – work so boldly glamorous and versatile it speaks to innovators in every field.
“Her patterns are exceptional. They exist on the cusp of a paradox,” says British designer Ilse Crawford. “Every time you think you can sum them up, you can’t.”
To Deborah Lloyd, creative director of global luxury brand Kate Spade, the Florence Broadhurst archive is quite simply “ground-breaking and sensational” – “one of the most creative things that has come out of Australia.”
And behind each image is the woman herself, an endlessly restless spirit. Her eye was exquisite, her appeal fascinating, and her approach at times very naughty indeed.
Florence has been the subject of a multi award-winning, internationally published biography as well as a documentary directed by acclaimed director Gillian Armstrong!
She is a life, an enigma, a legend and a legacy. Florence Broadhurst – the story is not over yet.”
In Australia, Signature Prints has resurrected Florence Broadhurst by introducing a whole range of products using her designs. Not just wallpaper, but also room fragrances, bags and accessories, home decor, furniture, fashion apparel, etc etc etc. Why does Florence Broadhurst inspire me? Because she simply had it all and did it all fearlessly, and, I’m pretty sure that if her life hadn’t been cut short so tragically at 78 when she was found murdered in her studio, and if she were still alive, Florence would still be at it today. I do love strong women!
Watch this video by Signature Prints on how and why the company advocates the designs of Florence Broadhurst: http://youtu.be/m9T9V14Op-I
I’ve ordered Helen O’Neill’s book “Florence Broadhurst – Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives”, and can’t wait to start diving into it!
Take 10 minutes of your time to read this article for Marie Claire magazine, by Helen O’Neill:
I’ll leave you here with a YouTube trailer of the Gillian Armstrong documentary “Unfolding Florence”: http://youtu.be/oIqlramFKkg and some images from Google.